The Prologue to Rajiv Mittal’s ‘Brahmahatya’, with its absolute finality of ‘what is over is over’, draws you in, immediately. Is it a sigh of relief, this sense of closure right at the start of a book? Or is it a tone of defeat the book whispers in? The curious unhurried juxtaposition of a priest getting dressed and a man trying to be ‘old enough to be his father’ just a page later only adds to what seems like a very unusual start to a book.
The story of ‘Brahmahatya’ is at once tragic and triumphant, banal and sacred, real and unreal, of this world and another. The book is ripe with episodes from Hindu mythology and excerpts from ancient scriptures which are appropriated by the characters to understand their circumstances, or by the author, in order to move the story forward.
Govindarajan Memorial Residency (GMR) is an old age home in a Southern state of India. Most sponsors of the aged residents, like Ravi the protagonist, live overseas. The fee for care-giving and for funerals is duly sent, keeping oiled the wheels of this plush retirement home, comfortable but speckled with greed and politics. The residents ‘were historical but they definitely were not works of art in a museum; these were crumbling.’ The atmosphere is one of a ritualistic sameness of routine and a smell of medicines, decay and death.